Monthly Archives: December 2005

Slifkin Issue: Some thoughtful insights by R’ Daniel Eidensohn

This will be one of the very few posts related to the Slifkin issue. There is a enough literature out there on the net to create a small encyclopedia. Bearing that in mind , I came accross these two posts by R’ Daniel Eidensohn (who authored Daas Torah, Yad Yisroel – an index of the MB and an index of R’ Moshe Feinsteins Teshuvot). I feel his insights are highly insightful and get to the real core of the issues invovlved. I therefore felt they are worthy of sharing with a broader audience.

Avodah V16 #47

Date: Mon, 05 Dec 2005 01:59:16 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <>
Subject: Re: Rabbinical comments on R. Slifkin’s Science of Torah

Micha Berger wrote:
>While that’s true of the recent round of letters, that is not at all what’s said in the original. The original ban >used the words "melei’ei kefirah", "meenus", "kechol sifrei minim", >"divrei kefirah uminus", etc…. R’ Moshe >Shapiro: "sifrei minim heim" and "avodah zarah". R’ Shternbuch’s letter is entirely about ma’aseh bereishis. And then the >back-and-forth with R’ Elyashiv too was about whether R’ Hirsch’s and the Tif’eres Yisra’el’s >approaches to creationism are still withinn the pale.
>In short, there is very strong reason for the reader to extract the "wrong conclusions".

Just wanted to post some background information regarding the latest
round of letters.

As R’ Micha Berger writes – the original condemnations of R’ Slifkin have been for various reasons. One group acknowledges that legitimate authorities were quoted by R’ Slifkin – but that these views have been invalidated by the consensus of contemporary gedolim. This group focused on the issue of the age of the universe and the general issues of conflicts between Torah & Science. This is similar to the view expressed in the Chasam Sofer that a consensus can invalidate previously legitimate views. Similar R’ Tzadok says that because of the revelation of Kabbala the views of the Rishonim regarding Hashgocha protis and Yichud HaShem – now have the status of kefirah. Another group insisted that R’ Slifkin’s attitude of requiring the Torah to justify itself in the face of Science was impudent and disrespectful. Some even felt that such an attitude constituted kefira. Others felt that his kefira was that he stated that chazal could err in scientific knowledge. Another group argued that while the views of R’ Slikfin were o.k. for kiruv – they were out of place in the yeshiva world. Problem was that kiruv hashkofa has become accepted in the yeshivos and therefore it is necessary to uproot it – even at the expense of destroying a generation – in order to return the next generation to the correct faith. In addition some assert that R’ Slifkin is a righteous Jew who has sincerely erred and thus is not a kofer while others assert he is in fact a kofer.

The present upheaval involves two basic factors. 1) Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita has been the most significant support for R’ Slifkin up until now. Rav Shmuel is not only a universally recognized godol but is also universally recognized as a mensch. He and his son wrote glowing haskomos to R’ Slifkin’s books. Furthermore he prevented attacks on R’ Slifkin in the English press – including R’ Aaron Feldman’s shlita article which was to have been published in the Jewish Observer. He alsoasserted that – contrary to the other Godolim – that there is fact no clear mesora that the universe is 6000 years old and that one is not a kofer for asserting an age greater than 6000. However he was not happy with the tone of some of R’ Slifkin’s writings – though he did not feel that justified banning the books. 2) The reversal in his position apparently has occurred because of two essays written by R’ Slifkin – a) one concerning the Jumping Elephant which asserts that contrary to the understanding of Tosafos – elephants can not jump.This is relevant to the halacha of kinyan. b) an article discussing pesik reisha where he cited the case of Mike the Chicken who continued living after his head was cut off. In this article R’ Slifkin asserted that pesik reisha does not have to be 100% of the time but just the vast majority of times. He later retracted the article and apologized for not researching carefully enough to learn that Mike the Chicken in fact retained some brain stem.

These two essays have apparently persuaded Rav Kaminetsky shlita and Rav Perlow shlita ( who was also somewhat of a supporter of R’ Slifkin) as well as R’ Aaron Schecter shlita that R’ Slifkin was obsessed with showing the weakness of rabbinic authorities and that this was intolerable. Therefore their previous support and/or refusal to associate with the ban had to change. Hence the letters – even though they have not yet publicly explained why they wrote these letters.

Ironically these two articles were discussed with another godol – who is not one of R’ Slifkin’s supporters – and he asserted that R’ Slifkin’s analysis was entirely kosher in both essays. He stated that it appeared that the above mentioned Godolim have been uncomfortable for a while with having to defend R’ Slifkin – in the face of the vast majority of contemporary authorities – and that this was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.

We thus have the problem of an ehrliche talmid chachom – R’ Slifkin – who has been lauded for years for his success in kiruv being attacked for different reasons by different groups. Much of the attacks have not conformed with halachic guidelines. The attacks are being done by the godolim who define contemporary yiddishkeit. Even more problematic is that there is a significant element of the English speaking Chareidi world who do not understand either the reason for the attacks or the methods being
used. All the above has led to a debacle in which rabbinic authority is being ridiculed both for what it says and how it says it . It has also become a spectator sport in which the secular press – and the Jewish blogs- – have had a field day talking about the medieval ultra-orthodox Jews who are afraid of Science. There seems to be no obvious resolution because the issues involved transcend the writings and person of R’ Slifkin.

Daniel Eidensohn

Avodah V16 #49  

Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 03:58:21 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <>
Subject: Re: Rabbinical comments on R. Slifkin’s Science of Torah

S & R Coffer wrote:
>1) RDE claims that the bans compromised halachic guidelines yet neglects to illustrate his point.

This point has been rehashed many times. There is a minimum requirement that a person be allowed to defend himself before being publicly condemned. At least this is Rav Sternbuch’s understanding of the halacha – – as well as that of other poskim I have talked to. The condemnation – without chance for defense – by wall poster and newspaper ads is very problematic. Rav Nosson Kaminetsky has described it in greater detail – as he received the same type of treatment and has written a book (as yet unpublished) describing the process fully. There are other issues but that alone is sufficient to justify my statement.

>2) If one Rav or Rosh Yeshiva signed the ban, I might be comfortable with the above statement. But since a >large number of Gedolim signed the ban, the allegation of halachic impropriety seems audacious.

Again – I am not relying on my own judgment but those of poskim that I talked to. Thus your comfort level is not relevant. Why not ask your local posek what the halacha requires.

>3) There is an implication that contemporary yiddishkeit should not be defined by gedolim. I find this idea >problematic.

An interesting deduction but in fact the opposite of what I wrote.

"The attacks are being done by the godolim who define contemporary

I did not say nor did I mean to say that gedolim should not define contemporary yiddishkeit. If my wording was not clear than I apologize for creating a false impression.

>4) There is an implication that the only time a ban may be issued is if the entire frum world understands the >motivating factors of the ban, an obvious impossibility. There will always be dissenters.

I discussed this matter in detail with several of Rav Moshe Shapiro’s when he first issued his ban. They said that this is the first time that Rav Shapiro has ever signed on a ban because he feels that bans are usually destructive rather than constructive. However they claimed in his name that he felt that the insidious distortion of hashkofa in the yeshivos had to be corrected even if it caused the loss of many of the present generation. A similar issue can be found in Rav Dessler’s writings volume 3 page 355. There he asserts that it is worth paying the price of even causing 999 out of 1000 to go off the derech in order to have yeshiva’s which produce gedolim. He acknowledged that that was not the attitude of R S. R. Hirsch. Rabbi Schwab anonymously published a strong dissent to Rav Dessler’s thesis.

Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in his introduction to the Igros Moshe that the ikkar of psak is sevora. He also said that there is no such thing as a godol today – who can’t be questioned on the basis of sevora. This idea of respectfully questioning is clearly explained by Rav Chaim Voloshner in his commentary to Pirkei Avos.

This need for rabbonim to explain themselves is why I complied with Rav Sternbuch’s request to translate and disseminate on the Internet – his explanation why he felt R’ Slifkin’s views are kefira. I did not and do not agree with him – but I greatly appreciate the fact that he took the time and effort to make sure his views were fully understood. Rav Feldman also felt a need for explain his views.

Thus while there will always be dissenters – a reasonable effort needs to be made to explain what is going on. The efforts so far have been largely embarrasing in their contradictions and lack of cogency. Obviously these brilliant talmidei chachomim have justification for their views – but that doesn’t exempt them from teaching us what they are.

>5) There is an implication that because rabbinic authority is being denigrated, the Rabbis should not have >issued the ban. I find this viewpoint problematic. "ki yisharim darchei Hashem, v’tzadidkim yeilchu bo…"

It has always been recognized that one must persuade in situations where people have freedom to listen or dissent. Over the last few years we have experienced a number of shocks resulting from bans on books, sheitel, zebu etc etc – which have not had a favorable impact on kavod haTorah and rabbinic authority. It is additionally troubling because there are legitimate issues here that need to be clarified. There are alternative ways that these matters could have been handled which would have not generated the skepticism and cynicism that now exists.The latest round of letters is a further example of a process generating gratuitous disorientation. If there was in fact unanimity amongst the gedolim then perhaps you are right. However we have witnessed Rav Shapiro and Rav Sternbuch declaring R’ Slifkin’s views as kefira while R’ Shmuel Kaminetsky has said they are not kefira. We have witnessed R’ Aaron Feldman switch from defending R’ Slifkin to attacking him for kefira in a manner that even his talmidim at Ner Yisroel have found to be totally disorienting. As I pointed out it is very puzzling why R’ Shmuel Kaminetsky defended R’ Slifkin for so long and now has apparently reversed himself – without explaining what new events had caused him to see harm in R’ Slifkin’s works which he had not seen before.

On a lower level we have seen R’ Slifkin going from a superstar in kiruv work to being denounced as a heretic. We have seen R’ Dovid Gottlieb & R’ Dovid Orlofsky citing R’ Slifkin’s works and within a year assert that it is kefira. We have seen sincere intelligent kiruv workers suddenly
discovering that they have teaching kefira for years.

Yes it is critical that gedolim explain themselves in ways that are convincing to sincere and committed Jews!

>6) There is an implication that the secular press and cyberspace babble needs to affect the decisions of >gedolim when they feel they are fighting for the salvation of their nation, an idea that, once again, I take >issue with.

I am not suggesting that because of the reaction of the secular press that Gedolim refrain from telling us what is kefira and what is the Torah view. However, I am asserting that there is a need for clearer explanations than have been provided so far..

Hopefully I have made myself clear and I apologize for not being clearer the first time around.

In sum, kavod haTorah and kavod Gedolim requires that the present situation be handled differently

Daniel Eidensohn

Yitzhak Zev Kolakowski Part 2 – Gedolim Videos

300+ videos of Gedolei Yisrael are availabe here. Enjoy and tell people about this particular link. Thanks of course to Yitzhak Zev Kolakowski for putting these videos online.

“Time” related halachot

Currently I am learning Mishnayot. Bli neder, I hope to finish Seder Moed within the next couple of months. I am currently learning Brachot and I have become quite interested in "time" related halachot, example zman tefilla, international date line, etc. Below are some sources that I have allocated that need to be analysed by anyone interested in the topic:

– My diagrams regarding the Machlokes Gra / Rabbeinu Tam


– On Twilight by Rabbi Gil Student (

– The proper time to Light Chanukah candles by Rabbi Howard Jachter (

– The International Date Line by Rabbi Howard Jachter (

– Twilight, Sunset and Night By Rabbi David Bassous (

– When Does One Pray When There Is No Day A Guide to Shabbos Observance and Prayer Times in Alaska and Other Arctic Regions Rabbi Dovid Heber (

– Gemera Shabbat 34b-35a (
– Gemera Pesachim 94a (

Also See Mishna Berura Siman 261 and the Biur Halacha there for great eleboration on the different caclulation for working out the time of day and night

If anyone has some extra notes or anything of interest to add to these sources please leave a comment or email me (If any of the links don’t work please email me as well). Thanks and enjoy.

The Relationship between R’Kook and the Chofetz Chaim: Part 2

Below are two extracts taken from the “The Chafetz Chaim” (Rabbi Moses M. Yosher, Artscroll History Series, that should highlight the relationship that existed between R’Kook and the Chofetz Chaim.

[Pg 161 – Pg 162]

Many a prominent personage in religious Jewry could give credit for his successful career and honour achievement to the influence of the Chafetz Chaim. Suffice it to mention that such a renowned figure of distinction as the first chief rabbi of the Land of Israel, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook, would relate with particular pleasure, how he agreed, under the influence of Chafetz Chaim himself, to give up his plan to go into a career in commerce and instead to prepare to become a rabbi.

It is interesting to note that Rav Kook, then a young man, as first argued with the Chafetz Chaim that peraparation for the rabbinate would prevent him from fulfilling a previous commitment. He had promised the Chafetz Chaim, at his request that a Kohen he would choose an area of study in the laws of Temple sacrifice and learn it thoroughly enough to be able to clarify these unused laws, perhaps for a time of future observance. How could he keep his promise and still study for the rabbinate? The Chafetz Chaim responded by saying that he would release him, so long as he undertook to become a rabbi.[1]

[1] The Chafetz Chaim spent a great amount of time in Torah study with the young Rav Kook at that time. Ever since then, the pious sage greatly esteemed and honoured him

[Pg 440 – 442]
An Excellent evaluation of the Chafetz Chaim as a man of halacha was given by Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (in HaHeid, Jerusalem, Tishrei 1934). He wrote:

His first creation, from which his own name was established for all time, was the sacred book Chofetz Chaim. In it he gives the laws of the prohibitions on evil tongue and slander, with all their details, in a precise, organized manner, with a marvelous and valuable introduction. It is all clear-cut, definitive halacha, set on a firm basis of sources from Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, Tosefta, Sifra, Sifre and the definitive law of the Rishonim. With all this we have his straightforward elucidation which show how he derived all his conclusions from a halachic foundation. The subject of Evil Tongue brings pain to ones moral sensibility, but he did not assuage the pain by just preaching. Rather, he set everything on a foundation of sound halacha. Only in a few instance does some expression of moral outrage escape from his heart, directed at the deformity of speech which we call Evil Tongue, common in the world, to our great sorrow.

Much later, after this sacred volume spread in halachic circles, he thought it proper to publish a book of ethics full of pure mussar, true Torah and fear of Heaven, a book that is based essentially on the moral aspect of clean speech. The book, Shmiras Halashon, is a book in which every expression reminds us of the early masters of mussar, those men of great soul, the geonim and tzaddikim for all generations.

It was the holiness of kindness, of chessed, so firmly rooted in his heart, that impelled him to write his excellent book Ahavas Chesed. It is virtually in the same format as his Chafetz Chaim, a compendium of laws, clear and pertinent, on all aspects of kindness, chesd. This, too, is a halachic work, addressing its subject in the precise mode Jewish Law.

His heart, was full of concern for the welfare of Judaism in distance places where the Jewish community was not yet as well established. With special insight, he understood the trials that immigrants to new lands had to face in assuring the preservation of their full religious life. For that reason, he published his book Nidchei Yisrael. The book is filled with specific halachas that address the condition facing emerging communities in distant land. He sought to strengthen and encourage them, and to give them the heart to overcome all obstacles and to defend with all their might the completeness of their Judaism.

His vision penetrated to what was happening to Jewish youth, expecially to young men who were conscripted into armies where they were compelled to live lives removed from all Judaism. They needed special guidance on how to maintain their Judaism even in situations of military stress and of alien yokes that would bear down on them with force. For these Jewish soldiers, he wrote Machaneh Yisrael.

All the time, he was sensitive to the need for a full Jewish life, a life of Torah and Mitzvos, This is the Jewish life that is fixed and lasting, the Jewish life that is defined in all its details in the code of law, the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim. He found that although it had been explained and elucidated and commented upon by the great scholars of each generation, who unremittingly negated themselves in the task, there were still unfulfilled needs. With the immensity of halachic detail, there were many Jews who required clarification and determination of practical halacha. For this reason, he wrote Mishnah Berurah, and the accompanying Biur Halacha, both explaining, even to the reader of mild erudition, how to live by the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim. This book, Mishna Berurah, particularly gained its place among the Jews as a definitive work whose decisions were followed everywhere, a timeless heritage for them.

When the messianic Redemption comes, speedily in our day, and the Bais HaMikdash is built anew, the entiree body of Torah law concerning holy offerings will have to be clearly and lucidly available especially for the Kohanim [who will have to minister and attend to the offerings at the Sanctuary]. That tzaddik, however saw that this field of study was utterly neglected, and so het set his mighty hand to task and wrote a major work, Likkutei Halachos, on the entire Talmudic order Kodashim… in the format of the compendium of Rav Yitzchak Alfasi on the Babylonian Talmud.

Update on R’Kook letter

It seems that the letter from the son in law of the Chofetz Chaim to R’ Kook has received a lot of interest. For that I am glad, because I feel that there are many myths circulating the Orthodox world on a variety of issues that need to dispelled. If by publishing this letter on my blog I have brought light onto this delicate subject, I feel I have fulfilled my duty.

I received an interesting email the other day from a gentleman requesting a copy of the original Hebrew letter. Lo and behold, it turns out that he is a great grandson of R’ Aharon Hakohen (the son in law of the CC, who authored this letter). I asked him to share some insights or some stories he had heard regarding his great grandfather. This is what he responded:

I guess the most interesting thing I heard was that when the arabs
controlled Har Hazeisim, they desecrated most of the kvaros; one of the few
they were too scared to touch was that of R. Aharon Hakohen.

B"H, his seforim have been reprinted and are being studied again, especially
"Avodas Hakorbanos", which has been divided into "limud yomi". Kohanim
worldwide are encouraged to study it in preparation of the avoda returning,
BMH"B, Amen.

Is not the works of providence amazing? Here we are in the year 2005, and a great grandson of the author of a letter published in 1928 finds it online on this very blog, that is 77 years later. To the best of my knowledge he had not been aware of this letter until now. Absolutely mind blowing stuff, at least to me anyway.

Letter from the Son in Law of the Chofetz Chaim to Rav Kook (1928)

In a recent post of mine to Areivim I presented alleged evidence of the Chofetz Chaim making disparaging statements regarding R’ Kook. I was personally upset over this evidence, hence the reason for sending it into Areivim to see what other people thought of it. A poster on Areivim (David Hojda) was kind of enough to respond to my post and sent me a letter from Rav Aharon HaKohen (son in law of the Chofetz Chaim) to R’ Kook. It was in hebrew (please email me if you want to receive a copy of the original hebrew). A good friend of this blog Chardal ( was kind enough to translate this letter for me. Below is the contents of this letter which I think is a very strong piece of evidence regarding the relationship between R’Kook and the Chofetz Chaim, and hopefully will have the potential to dispel many myths. It is interesting to note this letter was written in  1928, which is eight years after the publication of Orot (1920) which was one of R’ Kooks most controversial works and also after he become Chief Rabbi of the Medina in 1921 (another controversial period in the life of R’Kook). For further details see [] for a timeline of the life of R’ Kook. Many thanks once again to Chardal for translating the letter and to David Hojda for originally sending it to me.

Rav Aharon HaKohen
Author of the book ‘Avodat HaKorbanot’
Son in law of the Gaon Israel Meir HaKohen Shlit”a author of the book Chafetz Chaim and Mishna Brura
Tel Aviv, Eretz Yisrael

With Hashem’s help, 5688 (1928)

Even though my heart was always greatly pained when people who claim to be observant of Torah and mitzvoth dare to disparage the brilliant and righteous, pious and modest, leader of the land of Israel, our teacher Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook Shlit”a – I refrained from public protest regarding the honor of the Torah. [This is because] I know that my master and teacher, the Chafetz Chaim Shlit”a – who honors and is very fond of the honorable Gaon Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Shlit”a and whose heart was greatly sickened when he heard of the persecutions against [the Rav] – did not come out with public rebuke regarding this, saying that silence regarding such matters and the reduction of their publicity is [the proper way] to repair them – [that is] to lessen and reduce their value. (nevertheless, no one dares utter words of disparagement against our teacher Rav Avaraham Yitzchak HaKohen Shlit”a in front of our master[, the Chafetz Chaim,] and he would turn his eyes with contempt from any posters [disparaging Rav Kook -ed]).

However, when I recently saw that a periodical that has appeared – which arrogantly dares to call itself “meeting place of the sages” – wrote horrible, cursed, and blasphemous words against our teacher Rav Avaraham Yitzchak HaKohen Shlit”a – [words which] are forbidden to even put in print – I find it a holy obligation in my soul not to be silent (as is explicit in the Rambam הלכות ת"ת פ"ו הל’ יא-יב). [This is because] someone who disparages a Torah scholar has no portion in the world to come, and is in the category of one who “despises the Word of Hashem” (כי דבר ה’ בזה), and we are obligated to banish him. [And this is especially true regarding] this brilliant and pious [rav] – that it is forbidden to remain silent [on this matter] and we must go out and rebuke this humiliation of the Torah, and join ourselves to the protest and great anger of the rabbis and sages of the Holy Land and the exile regarding these words of villainy. [Thus] we should not see [that which is] Holy destroyed, G-d Forbid.

And may Hashem, may His Name be Blessed, remove the disgrace from the children of Israel and raise the honor of our Holy Torah. These are the words [of one] who writes with a wounded and agitated heart regarding the honor of our holy Torah which is [being] given over to disgrace.

Aharon HaKohen
Son in law of the brilliant Rav, the righteous Chafetz Chaim, Shlit”a

Marc B. Shapiro Series: Principle 2

[This post has taken me longer than expected, however here is what I have done so far, its about 70% done]

Principle II. The Unity of G-d

Meaning to say to accept that this is the quintessential idea of Oneness. It is not like the oneness of a pair (i.e. pair of shoes – one group) or and not one like a species. And not like man that has many individuals nor like a body that divides into many different parts until no end (everything keeps on being divisible). Rather God is one and there is no other oneness like His. This is the second principle and is taught in what it says "Hear Israel, Hashem your God, Hashem is one."

Sources against the Kabbalists with regard to the sefirot

MS: opponents of the kabbalah viewed the mystical doctrine of the sefirot, the ten aspects, or powers, of the Godhead, in the same way as the Trinity, namely as a violation of God’s absolute unity and thus idolatrous.

R. Isaac ben Sheshet (1326 – 1407, the Rivash, Sh”T harivash no. 157)

quotes a philosopher who argued that, whereas the Christians believe in ‘three’, the kabbalists believe in ‘ten’

R. Abraham Abulafia

Agreed with the philosophers and saw the standard understanding of the Sefirot as even worse than the concept of the Trinity

Kabbalistsic works (going against a simplistic unity of the unity of God)

R. Moses Cordovero

At the start of the emanation, the Ein Sof, King of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, emanated ten Sefirot, which are from His essence, are one with Him and He and they are all one complete unity

R’ Jacob the Nazirite

the first three and the last three benedictions of the Amidah prayer are directed to the Sefirah Binah. The middle blessings are directed to Tiferet during the day and to Binah at night

Definite Heresy

Shabatean kabbalist Abraham Miguel Cardozo (1626 – 1706)

the hidden God, called the ‘First Cause’, it is the Demiurge, the ‘God of Israel’, who created the world and exercises providence. In other words, it wsa the Demiurge, not the First Cause, who appeared to the patriarchs, sent the plagues, and took the Israelites out of Egypt.

Supporters of Abraham Miguel Cardozo’s position

R’ Isaac Lopes of Aleppo

advocated this position quoting from Cardozo’s unpublished Boker avraham

R. Joseph Hayim ben Elijah Alhakam of Baghdad

rejected Lopes’s Cardozian position, nevertheless had a very high opinion of him

R Jacob Kassin (1900 – 1994, Late Chief Rabbi of Brooklyn’s Syrian Community)

Cited Lopes numerous times

Kabbalists who advocated similar idea to Cardoza

MS: Like Cardoza, they believed that that Ilat Ha’ilot has no involvement with human affairs, being completely impersonal and transcendent. Therefore no prayers are directed toward it. Instead one prays to the ‘God’ who is immanent, who created the word and exercises providence in it, that is, the God of Scripture, who is identified with either the Sefira (Keter) or the second Sefira (Hokhmah)

Ma’alekhet ha’elohut

Anonymously authored. Gershom Sholem believed written around 14th Century

R Isaac ibn Latif (thirteenth century)

The First Created Being, may he be blessed, knows everything by virtue of his essence, for he is everywhere and everything is in Him, as it written, the whole earth is full of his glory(Isa 10:3) and all beings exist through him by way of emanation and evolvement, and nothing exists outside of Him

Views at odds with Maimonidean Concepts

R Jacob the Nazirite (twelfth century)

the first three and the last three benedictions of the Amidah prayer are directed to the Sefirah Binah.

The middle blessings are directed to Tiferet during the day and to Binah at night

R. Abraham ben David of Posquieres (Rabad 1125 – 1198)

the first three and the last three blessings are directed to the Supreme Deity (Ilat Ha’ilot), but the middle blessings, which are more personal, are directed to the divine entity which is the manifestation of Ilat Ha’ilot, the Creator (Yestor Bereshit)

Quotes 4: Poetry from John Merick

John Merick, otherwise known as the Elephant Man, suffered from hideous disfigurements. However, beneath his exterior features was said to be  a noble, gentle man who accepted his fate as coming from G-d. Below is some poetry attributed to him. Let us learn from this man how powerful faith in G-d is and how the soul is the measure of a man.

    "’Tis true my form is something odd,
    but blaming me is blaming god.
    Could I create myself anew,
    I would not fail in pleasing you.

    Was I so tall, could reach the pole,
    or grasp the ocean with a span;
    I would be measured by the soul.
    The mind’s the standard of the man."

    – a poem often quoted by Joseph Carey Merrick


Thoughts on College

[This is a post that I recently sent to the Areivim mailing list]

There has been a few exchanges online regarding the social and spiritual implications of attending a secular college / university. Since I am a fair bit younger than most of the members online (21) and am currently enrolled in university in Sydney, Australia, I feel my comments will be of some interest to the members online.

First some background, I go to the University of Technology Sydney ( It is a full fledged university but with an emphasison the sciences, information technology, business and law. I have just finished my second year of Bsc  in Information Technology (basicallycomputer science) and have one more year to go. I attend about 12 – 15 hours of lectures, tutorials, etc a week. I live at home as do 99% of Jewish students here in Sydney, there is no living on campus. In fact it takes me about half and hour to get to University and half an hour back (by car, train takes less time)

Social implications: integrating with the gentile populace – time spent together

The first and most obvious issue to be raised is interacting and integrating with the gentile populace. At least at my university an emphasis is placed on group work. It is my understanding that this is the general trend of education today, to try and recreate the business work environment to the greatest degree possible. The purpose of this is that students are trained to relate and respond with skills they can actually use in the work force as apposed to remembering thousands of facts parrot style. So it is a given that at least at one course a semester many hours will have to be spent working together to get your assigned project done. In other classes, one just attends lectures with a couple of 100+ random people whose name you don’t even know, you watch a power point presentation, listen to the lecturer and then
go on your merry way home.

Group work, social acceptance, religious holidays, social influences

Social acceptance at a university where there is a very small Jewish population (other University’s like UNSW have a much larger jewish population) depends on the individual circumstances of the people involved. In my particular circumstances the following were my findings:

Because I am enrolled in computers at an international university there are a couple of guarantees, 1) 90% of your class mates are male 2)  because it is an international university there are many (many) foreign students, many for whom english is a second language.

The implications are as follows:

a) A person has to develop patience and exert themselves to be able to communicate with people who speak a different language to you and come from a different social and cultural background. I found this developed valuable social skills that were until now not exercised.

b) Being the only Orthodox Jew in a sea of gentiles (for lack of a better metaphor) requires diligence to make sure that your religious commitment are not effected by a culture and outlook that does not agree with yours. In theory this could include integration in the gentile activities, ie going to bars and clubs, inappropriate mixing of the sexes, foul language. In my circumstances the degree of the influence of these activities were of a minimal, because to put it bluntly the computer faculty inst exactly known for the wild boys on campus with a gigolo lifestyle. Most of the guys in their free time would rather create scripts on Linux or play on line computer games than go to the clubs for a night on the town. Also the fact that the majority of these students are males who couldn’t speak english properly, didn’t exactly serve as an enticement for me to join theiractivities. In other faculties / University’s this will definitely vary.

c)  Because I am in the computer faculty, there inst exactly going to be "heresy" discussed or taught. It is usually the art faculty that is full of the left wingers, the communists, the gothics and the freaks. In Australia one does not have to do a BA before his degree so the majority of Jewish Australians avoid that scene entirely. The computer faculty ins’t interested in campus life, student elections, politics or anything to do with a social conscience. There are very few Jews that I am aware of that are part of University social groups or sororities or frat houses. That aspect of University life doesn’t really exist in Sydney. My personal opinion is that in Australia the issue of heresy is a non issue. Australia is a very secular, non religious country, with many foreigners, so in reality no one really cares what you think or do. There not going to be droves of people marching under the banner of any "ism".

d) Anti Antisemitism for me has not been an issue. Although I personally wear a hat at University, since I just personally don’t want to draw attention to myself, on occasion when I have worn a kippah (for presentations or meetings) I have never found that to be a problem. As I said previously, Australia is a pretty pluralistic country and for a country that has one of the biggest Gay and Lesbian Pride Parades in the world, the average Australian isn’t really too fussed about religious minoritys or people who are different. I have found that the majority of gentiles are quite respectful of your relgious practices and if you are upfront and explain "I cant come onSaturday because of a religious celebration", etc they are usually very understanding.

e) In my personal opinion the only way that University can effect you negatively is by coming lethargic in mitzvot (ie not learning as much as you can, not going to minyanim, etc). However this is not a problem with University per say, but rather with any lifestyle outside the confines of Yeshiva. If a person is going to be involved in an inappropriate relationship with members of the opposite sex, Jew or Gentile, this can occur anywhere not exclusively in the confines of the University, ie it just as likely to happen if not more so in the workforce.

I will post more on these issues at a later stage, I look forward to comments.